Windhoek-“My mission is not done. I want to rip men’s hearts apart. I want them to feel the pain of my ordeal,” were the strong words of a 28-year-old gay man named *Merly who was raped by four men while waiting for a taxi to take him home.
Two years ago, after running a few errands in town, Merly had the shock of his life when four men pulled him into their taxi and drove off to a nearby riverbed to rape him.
The experience left the gay man traumatised to a point where alcohol is the only comfort he turns to in order to numb his emotions.
“They must have known that I sometimes jump (transactional sex) because it looked like they planned to do that to me,” Merly says.
The four men forcefully had anal sex with him and also demanded for oral sex. Merly was forced to comply with their demands, despite the fact that he was uncomfortable with it.
“I was just there in the riverbed, doing what they asked me to do. I had no choice. I was alone they could have hurt me if I screamed or failed to comply. I had no choice,” said Merly.
The incident left him so traumatised that he has recurring nightmares. And during the day, Merly turns to alcohol to deal with the pain.
“I’m still in shock. I can’t accept it yet that I went through that. I still can’t believe it. It’s tough for me to accept (sic),” said Merly.
After raping him, they left him naked in the riverbed with scratches he endured from the shrubs.
“They took everything from me. I had to walk back naked until I found a man who gave me his T-shirt to wear. But before that I had to sleep with him for N$ 50 just for the taxi to get home,” said Merly.
His eyes revealed an intense pain. But, he is not ready to deal with it, he added.
“I reported the matter to the police and afterwards they took me to the hospital for medical attention. They even gave me ARVs to take and they said it was to protect me from contracting HIV,” explained Merly. He was also referred to a social worker for counselling.
“I told them I was fine and I never went back for a follow up,” said Merly, who could not hide the sadness. The rape ordeal left Merly broken and unable to trust or love men, he said.
“I just want to hurt them the same way they hurt me,” he said. He also started ‘jumping’ more frequently, said Merly.
“I sometimes take things from people and just run away and I don’t allow anyone to touch me inappropriately unless I allow it,” he said. His mother and a few friends know of his ordeal. But, since his father never approved of him being gay, Merly did not think it was necessary to confide in him.
Nevertheless, those who know of his ordeal have not really shown signs of understanding, he says, adding that in most cases he is on his own when it comes to dealing with the emotional pain of being defiled.
“My support is just through alcohol. Can’t you smell that I’m smelling of alcohol?” he laughed.
He is afraid to take taxis and when he does he is with people or he normally asks one of his friends to take down the taxi number.
“If I decide to go out at night I go early and make sure I only come the next day. When I get in a taxi I make sure that there are women,” said Merly.
Merly says he is not a sex worker. Instead he has sex for money whenever the need arises.
“Not every man wants to have sex with a condom and if the money is good I go with the request. Some take me to very faraway places so that even if I refuse to have unprotected sex I don’t have a chance of running away,” said Merly.
He said his clients include tourists and married men. To this day, Merly’s alleged rapists were never found.
“The police tried their best to help me. The investigator even called me to identify taxi drivers that were apprehended with regards to my rape but I could not identify them. I know what they look like,” said Merly.
The Executive Director of the Women’s Action for Development (WAD), Salatiel Shinedima, when asked about the causes of rape said: “Some people do it because of intoxication (alcohol abuse). Some do it because they feel they have the power to do it, some do it out of pure lust, some do it due to some mental conditions they are suffering from”.
People need to understand that their perceived rights to sexual pleasure ends where the rights to say no of the next person begins.
“We need to do a lot of education, especially with our young men. I believe that education can help change attitude and behaviour. As a country we need to focus more on prevention and ensure that we change attitude and behaviour so that future generations are well aware of the rights of each human beings,” said Shinedima.
He further said Namibians cannot claim to be enjoying freedom nor claim to be a peaceful and stable country, when more than 50 percent of the population does not feel safe, even in relationships.
“When our women and children do not feel safe in their neighborhoods, even though we enjoy the political peace and stability, we still have to do more to ensure the social safety of our women,” said Shinedima.
*Real name withheld to protect his identity